TL;DR TRAVEL: PORTO, PORTUGAL

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset Here’s the thing: I had never really heard of this city until about a little over a month ago, as I searched Ryanair’s flight schedules for someplace new and exciting. Oftentime passed up in the minds of Americans for the capital city (and primary Portuguese bell-ringer) Lisbon, this is actually one of the most utterly magnificent places I’ve ever had the pleasure of touring. The little city on the Douro is renowned for its production of port wine, hills steeper than a double espresso, and blue and white azulelejo tiles flocking the buildings all over town.

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FAST FACTS

Currency: Euro.
Language: Portuguese, although Spanish and English are understood by mostly everyone. I also heard some French thrown in, if that’s your forté.
Tap water: I read one report online about someone getting sick, but I brushed my teeth with it every day and was good to go.
Open Container Laws: According to the internet and personal observation, if you’re not a sloppy jerk stumbling around like a dang fool, you’re fine. I didn’t exactly see people walking down the street slurping down wine, but I did see quiet circles of friends sitting as quintessentially as can be passing around bottles and enjoying the day.

Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset Car? Only if you want to fall down the side of a hill or sideswipe something. Walking is difficult enough in Porto, and a lot of streets are one-way due to cars not being able to climb the hills. Also, there’s a very simple metro system (printed handily on maps that are distributed for free at the arrivals hall of the airport) for destinations too far to traverse on foot.

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WiFi: In many areas around the city center on the North Bank of the Douro, WiFi is free and open to the public! Many cafés do not have a connection, preferring for guests to enjoy their surroundings and company rather than stare into their phones, but many places do offer WiFi as well. It’s a safe bet that your hotel, hostel, or vacation rental will be equipped with a connection. Also, the double-decker sightseeing busses all around town have free, open connections, so when they park, you can grab a quick connection if you’re in the vicinity.

USEFUL PHRASES

Hello–Olá
Goodbye–Até a vista (ah-tay ah vee-sta)
Please–Por Favor
Thank you–Obrigado (oh-bree-ga-doh, and extra points if you roll the R)
Yes–Sim
No–Não (now)
Beer–Cerveja (ser-vey-ha)
Wine–Vinho (vee-no)

ARRIVING

The most common method of coming to Porto is by plane, landing at Francisco de Sá Carneiro International Airport (OPO). Skyteam flights don’t operate in or out of OPO (lending to my ignorance of this gem of a destination), but Star Alliance airlines such as TAP Portugal and Lufthansa do. Primarily, though, it appeared that Porto was locked down by Ryanair and Easyjet, two smaller European airlines catering to those looking to travel on a budget.

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In the hills of the city center and Old Town Porto as well as on both sides of the Douro River (Rio Douro in Portuguese), I noticed countless places to stay ranging in levels of fanfare: from budget-friendly hostels for the freewheelin’ traveler to opulent hotels dripping with elegance for those who are in full TREATYOSELF mode. I rented an Airbnb (as I am partial to doing) for a price that, at the time of booking, I thought seemed low for the size and beauty of the place in the pictures, and figured it was too good to be true. Getting to the apartment and discovering that I was, delightfully, standing in the exact place depicted in my iPhone app, I came to the bubbly realization that accommodations in Porto are ridiculously inexpensive.

GALLIVANTING

Okay. Porto, Portugal is the port wine capital of the world. I mean, “port” is in the name TWICE. Most people go to Italy or France for fine wine, and that’s a shame, because an authentic Portuguese tawny wine that I bought for €6 is literally the best wine I have ever had. I am by no means exaggerating. But don’t worry! If you’re a teetotaler or a young buck, Porto isn’t out of the cards for you. There’s plenty to see, do, and enjoy in this amazing city.

FOR THOSE (AGED 18+) WHO AREN’T SOBER
Wine, wine, wine. This is a given, yes, but I can’t say it enough. In the States, a bottle that doesn’t taste like complete garbage will run you at least $8. In Porto, I picked up a bottle of local rosé from the well- and diversely-stocked shelf of a produce market (a produce market!) for €1.67. That’s two United States dollars and twenty-three cents. Let that sink in for a minute. The cherry on top of this was that it was good, too. Pick up a bottle, go down to the Ribeira or the park (more on that in a moment), and let your brain melt into a carefree shade of satisfied jubilance in the sunshine. You earned it.

Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset -Tour a wine cave. These tours are all along the south bank of the Douro, facing opposite the hilly, historical Old Town. This strip is called the Riberia de Gaia, and can be accessed either by metro or by foot across the Ponte Luís, the steel bridge towering stoically over the Douro. There are five bridges, but this is the most popular as it connects the Old Town to the Ribeira de Gaia for pedestrians. Wineries dot the sidelines of the Douro, and you can pretty much take your pick of which one you want to try (or do all of them!), as they’re all priced around five to seven euros per person and are offered in several different languages. The tours last about twenty minutes and are finished off with a tasting of the wines from that specific winery, with an option to purchase more wine at the very end. I personally toured Cálem and for €5, got four glasses of wine, some excellent conversation with those on the tour and tasting alongside me, and bought four bottles of authentic, local wine produced by Cálem for a mere €30.

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-As mentioned previously, there are double-decker sightseeing busses that roll around town. You can catch them at any stop and also get off wherever you’d like. A sign pointed a daily tour to be €13.
-Boat tour of the Douro. This 50-minute boat ride is the best way to truly experience the majesty of the Rio Douro and all five of its bridges. Tickets can be purchased at several kiosks around the riverfront, as well as little red “Tourist Offices” within the city center. A timetable of all the sailings is posted as well, but I can already tell you that you’re going to want to take the 19:30 sailing. Just trust me. (Note: if you have a few days on your hands, there are boat tours that span several days and float down to the wineries outside of town, sort of like a mini-cruise. I can’t personally vouch for this, but it looks incredible.)

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-Go to the Palácio de Cristal. The Palace itself is long gone and replaced by a huge dome structure that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of Porto’s elegantly detailed architecture, but it’s worth it to see this bizarre building firsthand. The gardens surrounding the site span into a lush park with panoramic views of the Douro as well as Porto in its red-roofed majesty. (Remember that park of which I spoke? Yeah, this is the one.)

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EATS

For Omnivores
The local specialty of Porto (in addition to port wine) is a deeply non-vegan dish called Francesinha, which is a square puff pastry filled with two kind of sausages, cheese, baked, then served on a bed of french fries swimming in a vat of melted cheese. I couldn’t look at the picture of it without feeling the ten pound bloat. You can grab one of these at just about any small café crammed into the corners of the city, and usually for less than €3.

For Vegetarians
Along the Ribeira, many restaurants are meat- and fish-only, offering only scant “salads” consisting of naught but lettuce, tomato, and an onion ring if you’re lucky. But don’t despair! A great deal of places also offer many vegetarian-friendly dishes like pastas, sandwiches, and even some pizzas. Pastelerias line the streets, the windows full of stacks on stacks of pastries and croissants to enjoy along with an espresso or a cappuccino.

For Vegans
Sorry, vegans. We got the short end of the stick here. Usually the only offerings for us that can be widely found in Porto are bread baskets with oil, and maybe some olives if the stars all align just the right way as you stand on one foot balancing your wine bottle on your head. The only things I could find to accommodate the vegan diet every single place I went was coffee and liquor. But we vegans are used to that, and in my honest opinion, that’s not a bad combo…

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We’re talking about me, here, though. I will always scavenge for food. I found a lot of places that would cater to a vegan diet for the price of a smile and the batting of eyelashes above eyes of blue. If it worked for abrasive, acerbic me, it had better work for you, too.

INSIDER TIP: I had a lot of trouble finding a grocery store or market on my first couple of days in Porto. Thankfully, there was a small fruit market a block away from the apartment I rented, but I couldn’t find a place to buy the fresh baguettes for which Europe is known. It was really maddening to me and confusing at first, because I began to genuinely wonder what the locals ate. I spoke to a guy who worked for the “Take And Go” shops around town (little holes in buildings lined with vending machines where you literally just buy snacks, drinks, or coffee and go) and he said that on the weekends, most shops are closed. Sure enough, as the days progressed, more and more mini markets emerged from the woodwork of the bars that closed them off beforehand.

Restaurant Recommendations
Chic Dream–this café was right beneath my apartment and where I had dinner the first night. It was only bread, oil, olives and wine, but an amazing introduction to Porto nonetheless. The staff is incredibly friendly, and the WiFi is free. It’s a restaurant in Portugal that’s trying to be in Italy, causing a merging of food flavors that gives its menu an incredible and original fusion spin.

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Bar Ponte Pensil–this al fresco cafe (with some indoor seating, but why would you want it?) is situated right on the Ponte Luís, the main bridge crossing the Douro. The view is spectacular, and so is the sangria. The staff is friendly and accommodating; there’s a few vegetarian options that can easily be made vegan by request. Also, they’re open ’til 2am! And…did I mention that there’s live music every night? The balcony is perfect for watching the boats float by in the breezy sunshine or losing yourself in the lights of the Douro after dark.

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Café do Cais Handmade Burgers–a vegan recommending a burger place? Yep. This restaurant is right on the Ribeira’s boardwalk, so it can get a little packed, but it’s worth it. All the burgers appealed to the person I used to be, the person that ate meat like it was the most normal thing in the world for 22 years. And also, they have a vegetarian option! It’s a grilled eggplant, mushroom, and onion blend that has a spiced mayo on the bun but can be requested plain. Their burgers come with fries that are served in a bucket. A bucket, folks. And um, the sangria? It’s that sultry kind of drink that you feel like is just a fruit punch kind of fraud until, out of no where, you’re awash in bleary-minded happiness and you realize that that sangria had a trick or two up its sleeve.

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VT–This tapas place is situated along the south bank of the Rio Douro, and this is the place to eat as the sun sets. Vegan and vegetarian tapas are available, as well as a full array of regular-sized dishes for the omnivores and carnivores. And, dare I say it again…sangria. The prices, service, and food is excellent.

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The Felafel Place on Avenida dos Aliados–Look guys, I should know the name of this place, but I don’t. And for the life of me, I can’t seem to locate it online either. But those types of places are the best places, I’ve come to realize; the hole-in-the-wall authentic food that doesn’t need some fancy branding or internet exposure because it’s just so delicious, the business thrives without marketing. That’s this place. The menu is full of sandwiches that can be eaten on thick baguettes or made into pressed wraps, and several other meat and cheese dishes. I, however, am always going for the felafel option if that’s an applicable box on a menu. I got a wrap loaded up with tomato, onion, and an Easter-grass amount of lettuce, asking the server to please hold the mayo and he, though speaking only a little more English than I speak Portuguese, understood and obliged! He even translated the menu for me when he saw me aiming my Word Lens app over the words. Beer (Super Bock) is cheaper than water, and it’s pretty good for the Portuguese version of Bud Light. How to find it: spot the swanky-as-all-get-out BBVA building on Aliados to the right of the statue of a guy on a horse in the main plaza. Next, look to the street across and you’ll see a McDonald’s. This restaurant has a red storefront and is sandwiched on the corner between BBVA and McDonald’s.

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Majestic Café–Okay, y’all. This is where vegans have to sigh and simply go with the flow. And trust me, it’s a good flow with which to go because I’m 100% serious that every little aspect (except the touristy vibe) about this café was incredibly mind-blowing. This little restaurant is absolutely stunning, from floor to ceiling. Everywhere you look, you’re greeted by some extra little surprise in the walls, on the moulding, within the sheer lining on the columns holding the ceiling up. In a land of Dasani, the Majestic Café ranks in as a San Pellegrino. There’s a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, as well as an Afternoon Tea offering at 17:00 and a full bar available all day, every day. Majestic, indeed. (Get there early to beat the crowd of tourists with cameras hanging around their necks, doors open at 09:30.)

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Moustache Coffee House–This is on the other end of the spectrum from the Majestic Café, but just as awesome. Tucked away behind a tourist information station, the Moustache is adorable and makes a mean demitasse of espresso. The décor is very modern–all stark grey and new-age navy–and the vibe is very relaxed, as the owner, Carla, mans the register and espresso station; talking to her customers and laughing with them, generally just enjoying the people she gets to meet. In a world where most of the interactions between customers and people at work are humdrum and halfhearted, speaking with Carla actually made me feel happy in a way that’s really hard to pin down in real life. I felt like we were old friends instead of café owner and patron. Go there for the coffee, go there for the croissants, go there for the conversations with Carla.

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Mostly the conversations with Carla.

 I WISH I’D KNOWN

As soon as I came up from the metro, I immediately saw little flag buntings strung through alleys, across balconies. These playful little accents were a constant décor item throughout Porto, waving in the wind all over different terraces and side streets. They gave off a cheeky charm, as if Porto in the summertime were a place of genuine, childlike jubilance: a place to escape the fast-paced confines of adulthood and to kick back and relax in the sunshine.

IMG_4864 Finally, I asked a local about the flags, my curiosity getting the better of me. Apparently, they were decorations left over from the São João Festival that takes place every 23 June in a few different parts of Portugal, but is most vibrant in Porto. “The city decorates and then celebrates all night. They go crazy,” she said. When I asked why they were celebrating, she squinted her eyes and smiled skeptically, then replied, “Who needs a reason?!” This lively street festival is, fortunately for those with an affinity for authentic culture, not very widely known outside of Porto, and isn’t inundated with tourists. If you’re looking to experience a realer side of Porto and party like a local, plan your trip in late June.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Porto is literally the cheapest place I’ve ever visited in Europe. And while I haven’t been everywhere, Europe isn’t exactly know for being easy on the wallet. Four euros here, eighteen euros there, it adds up like wildfire. Water is notoriously more expensive than alcohol, and don’t even think about the cushy US comfort of it coming for free with your meal. AND YET, Porto is different. Porto’s economy is, unfortunately, suffering harder than other economic systems across the EU, which translates to cheaper prices for you and me. Too bad, so sad. Case in point: I purchased a four-pack of 1.5L waters for €3. THREE EUROS. I immediately thereafter bought three bananas and a bottle of local wine from the shop next door for a total of €1.86. For less than five euros, I bought enough water to last me my entire trip to Porto, snacks for the snap hunger that seems to befall me at every inopportune twist and turn, and a mental relaxer to coax me into writing something in the park, making for an absolutely splendid afternoon that you just can’t get in the finger-wagging United States. Less. Than. Five. Euros.

And it doesn’t stop there. I regularly ate in cafés, ordering an espresso doppio and sometimes a basket of bread for a mere three or four euros. Tipping isn’t expected, so if you only have a few coins on you, you’re good to to. Even the opulent Majestic Café had prices lower than any other European city would even think to charge their customers.

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Forget Paris, Porto is for lovers. The sunsets are an orange creamsicle of pure romance, fading into a robust pink and eventually a conceding periwinkle across the Rio Douro. The weather is perfect year-round in a way that I can’t quite understand except to say that possibly, Porto is just a little pocket of heaven with magic in the air. When you go, expect to fall in love; with the person you brought, with all the decisions in your life that led you there, with the sheer essence of this enchanting little red-roofed town itself.

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TL;DR TRAVEL: SPLIT, CROATIA

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This destination along the Dalmatian Coast is popular mainly with European tourists looking to make a sunny getaway. Despite its location along the Adriatic Sea, there’s a rich history here in Split, as evidenced by the city’s architecture and vast array of museums.

FAST FACTS

Currency: Croatian kuna. 100 kunas is equal to about 13EUR or 18USD.
Language: Hrvatski, or Croatian. However, English is widely recognized and spoken by locals.
Tap Water: Go ahead and drink up, it’s safe!
Open Container Laws: Like many countries in the EU, it’s totally cool to drink in public as long as you’re not a drunken mess and don’t bother anyone.

IMG_2268 Drinking Age: 18 to purchase, old enough to have to shave to drink.
Car? Nah. The roads are ancient and narrow and Split is a mostly pedestrian city. Take a bus from the airport to your crib and explore on foot. You’ll notice the little details that make this such a charming corner of the world and burn off all the calories you’re piling into your face at the same time.

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WiFi: Most every place has it, and it’s almost always locked. The good news is that most cafés and restaurants have the password printed right on the menu, and display the menus out front for passers-by.

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USEFUL PHRASES

Hello– Bok
Goodbye– Do Videnja (doe vid-jen-ya)
Please–Molim (moh-leem)
Thank You–Hvala (like “holla!” with a v)
Yes–Da
No–Ne
Beer–Pivo (pee-vo)
Wine—Vino

ARRIVING

Getting to Split is easiest by air, with passengers flying into Kaštela Split International Airport (SPU). It’s a small airport with only 8 terminals, so getting through is seamless and as hassle-free as you can get while traveling through airports abroad.

There are also regional bus lines that connect from other cities in Croatia, so it might be cheaper to fly into Zagreb or Dubrovnik and bus it from there. It all depends on your specific itinerary.

If arriving by air, take the Croatia Airlines airport shuttle bus located on the right-hand side of the parking lot just after exiting the arrivals hall. It’s 33 Croatian kunas (about 4EUR/6USD) and the ride to the city center is smooth, organized, and air-conditioned. A taxi to the city center of Split will run you about 350 kunas.

The bus station is crawling with people and very hot, but worth it.

The bus station is crawling with people and very hot, but worth it.

STAYING

All throughout the city center and Old Town, you’ll see signs for apartments, hotels, and hostels. Apartment rentals have been squirreled away into pockets of the renowned Diocletian’s Palace, the city’s most-recognized landmark built as a retirement home for King Diocletian centuries ago. In addition to these accommodations, several locals have posted their homes and spare rooms on Airbnb, as well as Couchsurfing.

GALLIVANTING

Tripadvisor, Like Croatia, and pretty much every travel website with information on Split will tell you the same things: the majesty of Diocletian’s Palace, have fun in the sun on Bačvice Beach, look out at the splendor of Split on Marjan Hill. Yes. You should do these things. But additionally, you should do other things. Things like…

FOR THOSE WHO LIKE ORGANIZATION
-There are countless tourism offices located off the main promenade toward Marjan Hill. In these offices, you can rent bikes, boats, and cars. Also, these places organize day trips to the outlying islands of Hvar, Vis, and Bisevo (among others) with full-day itineraries mapped out so that you don’t miss any of the sights these islands have to offer. They get pricey and have to be booked at least 24 hours in advance (two of the reasons I didn’t take these tours), but they are run by locals who know what they’re doing, so you’re in safe hands.
-Take in a history lesson. Beneath the gift shop of Diocletian’s Palace is a tour of the basement catacombs. It’s 40 kunas for adults and 20 kunas for children and students.

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-In the Old Town of Split are several museums outlining the history and culture of Croatia. Go learn something you can casually drop in conversation at parties.

FOR THOSE WHO JUST WANT TO CHILL
-Stroll along the promenade, enjoy a tall can of Ožujsko (the national pivo) or some wine and a snack. Beverages can be purchased from almost all of the trafikas lining the streets.

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset -Head a little further westward than Plaza Ješinec to Plaza Kaštelet, a beach with sand and small pebbles where you can relax under the Croatian sun. There are changing stalls as well as shaded coffee bars for your comfort and convenience so that you can spend all day on the beach. Showers are available for a fee. The coffee bars don’t offer food, so bring a sandwich or two along with you to enjoy by the sea.

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-Enjoy a drink at Vidilica. This postcard-perfect viewpoint of Split is, as described ever-so-accurately in a travel guide that my Airbnb host left for me: The place where anti-depressant commercials should be filmed. To say the view is spectacular is a vast understatement and, quite frankly, selling the place short. They’ve got rows of loungers set up facing the city so no one is without a stunning vista.

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset -Have a meal along the marina. There are two restaurants (F-Marine, F-Maduro) west of the city center on the way to the beaches that serve food and drinks and have free wifi. Take a load off and watch the rich people float by on their yachts.

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FOR THE YOUNG AND SPRY ADVENTUROUS TYPES
-Climb the bell tower of Diocletian’s Palace. Entry fee is a mere 15 kunas, and the view from the top is unmatched. It’s the best view you can get of Split, and something that can’t be missed if you’re in town. I stress here that you need to be in good physical condition; there is a sign posted as you make your way up that clearly states in several languages that you are climbing at your own risk. It’s easy to see why, as the stairs are incredibly narrow and steep, at one point, only one stair separates your head from the feet of the person in front of you.

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-Hike the trails of Marjan Hill. Getting to the viewpoint (called Vidilica) of the hill in itself is a bit of a workout with its steady stream of stairs, but just past Vidilica is another incline leading further up the hill. You’ll find trails up there perfect for the athlete looking to stay in shape while in Split or the rugged outdoorsy types.

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-Jump off cliffs into the Adriatic Sea. On the bottom of Marjan Hill and west of the city center, you’ll find the Plaza Ješinec: a coastline cupped by cliffs. Put your bag down (no one will touch it, as there’s this unsaid unanimous decision that everyone made to enjoy the water together and not be a thieving jerk; you’ll see plenty of unmanned bags strewn around), strip down to your suit and go leap off a cliff into the ocean! If no one else is doing it, be the first. Take a swim in the Adriatic or just do cannonball after cannonball. Just make sure not to cross the line of bouys situated a little ways out in the surf, because it’s illegal and you might die in the waves (and nobody wants that).

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EATS

For Omnivores
Split’s fare centers around seafood, so many of the local restaurants offer fresh fish that I’m told is amazing. Most menus are divided into categories for easier scoring: meat and chicken dishes, seafood dishes, pizza, pasta and risotto, vegetarian dishes, salads, and of course, dessert. Gelato stops are at every twist and turn with flavors piled high like mountains in the freezer cases. Go crazy.

For Vegetarians
You’re in luck, as almost every menu that I read had either a full vegetarian section or a few pizza and pasta/risotto dishes. You don’t have to subsist off salad in this city by the sea, I promise. Go get some gelato and give yourself a high-five. For more vegetarian tips, keep on reading while I outline eats for vegans.

For Vegans
Okay, so while you have to resist the ultimate gelato temptation that haunts you every couple hundred meters, the good news is that most restaurants offer one or two vegan pasta dishes. During my time in Split, I ate Pasta Neopolitana (pasta with a simple spiced tomato sauce) and also a pasta dish made with olive oil, cherry tomatoes, and garlic. Another food option that I noticed for vegans was a grilled corn station just off the Riva Splitska by the National Theater. Additionally, there are several markets tucked in the old stone buildings that have produce, and a few small bakeries stashed in the Old Town that sell fresh bread for a meager 5 kunas. Of course, if you have a kitchen at your disposal, you can also pick up some pasta, sauce, and veggies from the market and whip up something delicious.

Restaurant Recommendations
Pizzeria Portas–incredible vegan pasta and (from the looks of it), beautiful pizzas of all varieties. There’s a romantic terrace within Diocletian’s Palace where your meal can be enjoyed as well as in-restaurant seating. Expect to spend about 50 kunas per person for food, an extra 20 kunas or so if you prefer a beverage. I brought my water bottle in with me and the waitstaff didn’t have a problem with it. Wifi is free, and the staff is top-notch.

Paradox Wine and Cheese Bar–this is Tripadvisor’s top-rated eatery in Split, and for good reason. Located off the beaten path of the promenade behind the National Theater, the menu features olives and sun-dried tomatoes that come in portions generous enough to satisfy even the hungriest vegan. Additionally, all cheeses are served with fresh bread and seasonal jams, so if you’re with a nonvegan, share in the wealth of the jam! If you’re alone, request some. The staff is incredibly accommodating and trained to assist its customers without a language barrier. Also, your wine is served to you with a complete rundown of its origins. You’ll want to order several glasses just for the history lesson! Set a high budget for this place; it’s pricey but worth it. I skated out with a bill of only 150 kunas for two glasses of wine, olives, sundried tomatoes, and seasonal jam, but I’m one person. Couples and groups could run up a tab, but like I said, worth it. Wifi is free, but the signal is very weak out on the patio (where I recommend that you sit), so put the phone down, drink some wine, and enjoy the people around you.  Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Teraca Bamba–this little coffee bar is situated on a street called Solurat above the ground level. As with every coffee bar I saw in Split, the offerings are mostly alcoholic beverages, coffees, teas, and nonalcoholic juices and sodas. What separates Teraca Bamba from the rest of Split’s copious coffee bar scene is the view it offers its customers: there is no indoor seating, only a shaded outdoor terrace with a dazzling view of the Riva Splitska. I saw a few sandwiches on the menu if you’re feeling peckish, but none were vegan (note the the vegans, liquor will do you just fine). Wifi is free and though it is a popular spot, the terrace was never crowded, even at peak points in the day. To get to Solurat, take the first set of stone stairs leading up to Marjan Hill and make a right. You’ll see the terrace on your right-hand side a few meters later.

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COFFEE

You absolutely will not see a Starbucks anywhere near the vicinity of Split. Coffee is an art to be savored and enjoyed here in this coastal town, not some cheap commodity. Coffee is available at most restaurants and cafés, and enjoyed at all times of the day. I only had espresso (and it was delicious), but if you do dairy, don’t skimp on the lattes. These Croatians know what they’re doing when it comes to a perfect cup, and they don’t make it look too terrible, either.

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THE BOTTOM LINE

Despite the strange conversion of euros/dollars to kunas, you can skip through Split on a budget. Most meals are around 50 kunas per person, and you can re-use the gargantuan water bottles purchased in the markets, refilling them with water from the tap. The beach is free. The alcohol is cheap. The labyrinth of Diocletian’s Palace and the Old Town provide hours of entertainment within themselves; you can get lost in the architecture and Old World charm that drips off the buildings of this little town on the coast. Whether you come for the beach, the history, the experience, or a mixture of all three, just know this: after the sunscreen is washed off and the sand is rinsed out of your hair, you’ll still have a little bit of Dalmatia tucked with you for years to come…but probably forever.

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